08 July 2022

Yaroslava LAGAN, senior associate, attorney ADER HABER

Before the full-scale war began the availability of the equipped shelter to get safe from air (аnd not only air) raids in the house or near it was not a decisive issue while choosing a new home for many Ukrainians.  So in the morning of February 24th, a lot of us went down under the sounds of air-raid sirens in spaces that were sometimes not adapted for it at all. Currently in Ukraine are talking of immediate shelter network deployment all around the state, both in existing and new buildings.

What kinds of shelters do exist?

What we call shelters, The legislation uses the formal term “protective buildings of civil defense” to name what we call shelters in everyday life. This “umbrella term” includes:

  • shelters (these are hermetic buildings, in which conditions are created for a certain period of time to exclude the influence of dangerous factors on a person);
  • anti-radiation shelters (non-hermetic buildings, n which conditions are created, exclude the influence of ionizing radiation in the case of radioactive contamination of the area and the action of conventional means of destruction on those who hide in it);
  • quick-build protective buildings (they compensate for the shortage of shelters during hostilities. Their main characteristic is that they can be brought together extremely short quickly in case of an urgent need to hide from a threat).

Dual-use buildings can also be used as shelters. In peacetime they serve for their main functional purpose, and in wartime they are used to shelter people. For example, underground passages between metro stations, parking lots, tunnels, etc.

Besides that,  you can also hide from the threat in the so-called simplest shelters (these will allow you to temporarily hide from the effects of dangerous factors). The simplest shelters include the basements, already familiar to us, ground floors of high-rise buildings, and other underground rooms.

How should the shelter be equipped?

We often try to create at least minimum comfort in the shelters available to us by using improvised means.

But at the same time, the current legislation of Ukraine already contains a lot of detailed requirements for protective buildings, which are aimed at comfortable and, most importantly, safe movement of people and staying inside. Such requirements include, for example:

  • rules for installing identification signs and traffic indicators to shelters:
  • ensuring fire safety in shelters (that is, providing shelters with primary means of extinguishing fire, equipping them with systems of internal fire-fighting water supply, fire automation and signaling);
  • ensuring free entry to shelters, making them available for disabled persons and people with limited mobility;
  • protection of the shelter from flooding by ground, surface, technical and sewage waters;
  • in the case the shelter is brought into a higher level of readiness (as it happens during martial law), the balance holders must be ready to bring the protective building into readiness for use for intended purpose in not more than 12 hours;
  • there should be a working air conditioning system in the shelter.

This is far from a complete list – the legislation of Ukraine on civil defense issues even before the full scale russian military aggression have started regulated almost all the nuances of maintaining shelters in the condition necessary for their effective use in case of danger.

But not all balance holders of protective buildings have properly maintained them in usable condition.

But today, the entire country lives in the new realitiy of constant air raids, so the requirements for shelters are also changing in response to the challenges of time.

What new is proposed to include in legislation regulating the shelters to be built in the future?

The vast majority of existing shelters in Ukraine belong to the category of the simplest (these are basements of high-rise buildings and private houses, industrial buildings, ground floors). Such shelters do not fully meet the needs of protecting the civilians from the dangers of a full-scale war (some of them are not equipped with such basic things as, for example, water supply and drainage).

Therefore currently the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine is considering the Draft Law on deployment of the shelter system.

The legislators propose to make a section on civil defense engineering and technical measures obligatory for urban planning documentation at the regional and local level. Without this section, urban planning documentation simply will not be approved. This section is the main document, which provides for the construction solutions aimed to protect people from the dangers during military operations (including the construction of shelters).

Planning documentation for the construction of buildings with medium (СС2) and significant (СС3) classes of consequences (which the majority of multi-apartment buildings belongs to) will also necessarily contain such a section, and the provided solutions regarding shelters must make these shelters accessible to for disabled persons and people with limited mobility.

Besides that, the legislators propose to regulate the proper maintenance of shelters, and provide that:

  • Maintaining the shelters ready for use is carried out not only by balance holders, as it was before (as sometimes it is quite a riddle to find out who the balance holder of the building is), but also by their owners or users. If the building has several owners, users or balance holders, they can conclude an agreement defining who is responsible for maintaining the shelter(s).
  • The lease agreement for a shelter owned by state or local community may be terminated by the lessor before the agreement termination date if the tenant violates the requirements for using the shelter during peacetime or does not fulfill the requirements for bringing the shelter in readiness.

It is expected that such solutions will ensure the deployment of the shelter network in Ukraine, which will be not only safe, but also comfortable and accessible, equipped with everything necessary for the stay of large groups of people. As life has shown, this cannot be neglected.


Oleksandra Fedotova
Partner, Attorney, PhD in Law
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